Let me start by saying that my husband and I absolutely LOVED the Meliá and would go back there for another vacation. However, I do want to give a fair and honest review, as not everything was as hunky-dory as I would have liked. The pros far outweighed the cons, however, so I kept an open mind throughout the vacation and refused to stress out over minor details. The key is to exert a little patience and make your requests/complaints politely. First of all, we did not go with Royal Service. We were able to upgrade to a nicer room paying a small difference in price. But more about the room later.
Arrival: Check-in: we arrived early and did not experience the mid-afternoon influx of people, but the process took at least 45 minutes, most of which the rep spent going back and forth between the counter and back office without any reason that I could see, and giving us the expected sales pitch to get us to upgrade. They also provide recommendations for excursions and answer people’s questions, which add considerably to the wait. Prior to departure I had requested a room near the lobby, as my husband takes a lot of medication before meals and didn’t want to have to walk around with it. This request was ignored, but after explaining the issue they were quite accommodating.
Room: the room (villa 40) was very clean and tastefully decorated, but upon closer inspection we realized that it was old and run down, especially the bathroom. And yes, it did have that musty odor a lot of other reviewers mentioned. The balcony door didn’t close properly and my husband ruined a brand new shirt when he accidentally brushed against the door hinge, which was caked in black grease (beware of those hinges!). I have to agree with the reviewer that said that ‘deluxe’ is a joke, as there was nothing deluxe about the room. Eight or ten years ago it would have equaled a 5-star hotel room. We felt cheated and decided to do something about it. We politely explained the issue to the service staff and were offered another room which turned out to be in identical, if not worse, condition to the first. So we complained again and were offered a Romance Suite for an extra $15 a day. Well worth it, IMHO, since this is a much nicer, newer room with a flat screen TV (the other has an ancient tube set), free cable and internet, and a Jacuzzi. And all this for just $60 for the week! The service rep didn’t bother to tell us that our villa (n. 30) had free wifi, and I only found out midway through our stay. Good thing I’d taken my little NookBook with me. It came in quite handy after that . BTW, it seems that the basic Royal Service rooms are just as run down as the first one we were in. They just get more personalized treatment and some perks. We had the better room and found we didn’t need the perks. We never had a problem with bugs or mosquitoes in our room. There were some mosquitoes at night in the Caribe theater area, as it’s surrounded by ponds.
Restaurants and Bars: Food: Yes, the buffet food was repetitive but offered a wide assortment and there was always something we liked. I found that the quality was superior to that of other all-inclusives I have been to. Very good pasta and pizza and the fish filet was delicious. I was happy to get the paella every day (yummy!), so I didn’t suffer for lack of variety. We were able to try five of the specialty restaurants. The best ones were the Thai and Le Gourmet (but that’s only my opinion), the worst one the Italian. The food was nowhere close to “Italian”, and being Italian ourselves we would know! But it wasn’t horrible either, just passable. It’s a bit of a hassle to make the reservations, especially since you’re told to call after 9 am, at a time when most people are either having breakfast or are at the beach or the pool. After the second failed attempt to book at the restaurant of our choice we decided to try our luck and showed up every night at a different restaurant and asked to be let in. Since it was just the two of us, they always accommodated us. All the restaurant staff is professional and friendly.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The grounds: the grounds are gorgeous and immaculately maintained. The main resort area was always spotless and has many beautiful spots that I couldn’t help photographing over and over again. It turned out that we didn’t need the room near the lobby after all, as the walk from the pool area is a mere 10 minutes to the Caribe lobby and about 15 to the main buffet. We had no problem walking and hardly ever took the shuttle except at night. Whoever maintained that it’s a 25 min. walk is far off the mark! The beach was by far the best I’ve ever seen. The seaweed can be a little annoying but there are days when there’s not so much of it, and the staff do a good job of raking it up. We did notice an oily film on the water surface and it probably has to do with the many boats that are anchored close to shore. This is something they should not allow. They should perhaps build a marina separate from the swimming area. We never reserved our chairs with a towel for more than a half hour while we had breakfast but noticed that many chairs remained “reserved” for hours on end. This is a minor detail that has nothing to do with the resort management, but unfortunately with people’s bad behavior. We didn’t venture far along the beach on either side but we did go to the shacks on the Tropical side to shop for souvenirs. We had to haggle a bit but we got good bargains in the end. The pools are beautifully designed and never felt too crowded, except around the swim-up bar. The paint work did have a tired look but it didn’t deduct from its appeal.
Other Comments: Service: the staff was nice and friendly although, as I mentioned earlier, the service was a bit lacking, especially housekeeping. Our maid cleaned our room perhaps twice in the seven days we were there. We missed towels, shampoo and other supplies and we always had to call to have those things. She was in an advanced stage of pregnancy and obviously it slowed her down. But I could tell she was overworked and tired and felt sorry for her. She was friendly and adorable in her stilted English and I ended up tipping her anyway. I also gave her some school supplies for her four-year-old son that I had brought with me. BTW, they really appreciate these little gifts that are apparently expensive for their pockets. The time-share people were never a problem. Whenever we were approached by one we would politely say that we had already spoken to a colleague of his and they gracefully backed off. The service desk does not have a separate information counter. We had to make several trips to the service desk when our safe didn’t work or one of our keycards needed to be reprogrammed and other such glitches, and we had to wait in line with the new guests checking in, which doesn’t make sense at all. We could have used the precious time enjoying the beach or the pool. As for check-out, it was a breeze. I can’t say the same for the Hotelbeds airport pick-up. Even after several calls to their office they kept us waiting 1 hour and a half, until we were certain we were going to miss our plane. Eventually they sent us a taxi. Not a good way to end a great vacation, but this isn’t any fault of the Melia. Just a short note on the excursions. We only took one, to Saona Island with Hotelbeds. It’s long but I highly recommend it. Aside from the tour, which was wonderful, it’s an eye-opener for those who don’t realize what’s beyond the resorts’ walls, so to speak. Sadly, it’s a very poor country. The trip to the island was comfortable and fun; they take you with the catamaran one way and the speedboat coming back, when they stop at the “natural pool”. The island’s beach is gorgeous and I could have stayed there a whole week! Who was the reviewer that said the beach was full of garbage and the starfish in the “natural pool” fake and probably made in China??? Some people are just not made to relax while on vacation! I apologize for this extremely long review, but I didn’t want to just sugarcoat the good without highlighting also the not-so-good, the areas where the resort needs some work, mainly the service. Everything else was great and, as I said before, well worth it. All in all it was a fantastic vacation and I would do it all over again.